Category Archives: Pasta

Coke Tails. A Journey from Roux to ‘roo.

OK, let’s start with a post-modern ironic recipe alert. There can’t be many of these, but like our best jokes*, and loudest eructations, we appreciate our own more than most, and it tickled me. It all started with a bottle of Victorian Bannockburn Pinot Noir, 2000. What to have with this? Well, I like a good long cooked gelatinous meat or game fest with a big pinot. So we’re talking beef shin, ox tail, magpie goose etc. I had some roo tail in the freezer, which I think I’ve written about previously. It is like oxtail on game ‘roids. Amazing. So how to prepare? Hold on, HOLD THE F### ON, there’s a bottle of coke in the fridge, acquired for the purposes of coin sparklage investigation (though 2 litres was a little excessive, Shona). The buxom  (still?) Nigella has a recipe for a ham cooked in coke, so why not?

IMG_5138[1]*(3/4/14 addendum- I should explain my slightly dark internal mirth- kangaroo is a most revered delicacy by Australian Aboriginals. Unfortunately, sugary soft drinks are now a major calorific contributor in local diets, to the appalling detriment of dental hygiene, amongst many others).

The tail came complete as shown, though without skin and actually must have had a bit of fat removed, a shame. It’s worth remembering that the tail bones are a damn site longer than Oxtail, about 10cm near the base, so don’t go hacking blindly with your best Shun knife, it’ll end in tears.

Tail pieces upended, with 2 sticks of celery, 2 carrots an onion, and, a bit left field, an inch of root ginger, and enough coke to almost cover this compact assemblage. This was simmered until the meat is falling off the bones (about 6-7hrs), and then the veg removed and juices strained (would have been easier to keep separate from the meat, see below), and all kept overnight.

I’m not sure when the next phase of the dsh hit, but I was thinking what carbs to have with this, and since I had some time with the beasties I thought making pasta would be fun, yes, some homemade tagliatelle. But then wait, how about lasagne? BINGO. The journey continues……

The roux recipe is recalled vaguely on a M. Michel Roux cutting, appropriately. The quantities are easy to recall. (Actually a roux is a sauce thickened with a butter/ flour mixture, so Bechamel is a type of roux, but doesn’t rhyme with ‘roo).

  • 50g butter
  • 50g flour

Melted and allowed to cool a little

  • 1litre milk, gently simmered with
  • 1 choppped onion
  • 2-3 celery sticks (I like a strong celery flavour and the boys are less keen on a strong bay leaf/ pepper flavour- hey ho).



The milk strained through a conical sieve and added initially slowly (i.e. similar vol to butter/ flour), whisked in, double volume, whisked, double etc, taking care to scrape the corners of the saucepan. Then simmered until thickened. I invariably end up f##king up my Bechamel by either boiling the milk over or burning the supposedly simmering sauce. PAY ATTENTION.






Meanwhile, the boys are ripping the meat from the bones with deft little fingers and getting to gnaw at the bones. Good job beasts.


So then onto the pasta. Another easy quantity to remember is 1 egg to 100g flour. For this I used,

  • 3 eggs
  • 150g pasta plain flour
  • 150g semolina

Topped up (probably unnecessarily) with some water.

I use half plain and half semolina to get the gluten level up for a pasta that will won’t fall apart. However, it needs an enormous amount of work. At this point I ditched the otherwise super helpful boys, but I had to put the rough mass through the biggest setting on the pasta machine, perhaps 15-20 times?



And you just keep going until it becomes smooth, (not knobbly as show). The sheets need adusting of flour between rolls, and once smooth you can start thinning them out gradually from notch 1 to notch 5 (of 7 on my machine).



OK, we are nearly there. The veg (except ginger), I (well, Felix) put through a mouli legumes as shown, and added this to the meat and juice to make a fantastic sauce. I think this is a similar approach to that used for Hare Royale by Simon Hopkinson (God I miss hare….).

So, finally the construction. In retrospect, I put too much pasta to sauce here (ended up a bit dry), but hey, next time I’ll up the roo, and do 2 tails and go large. After spooning sauce betwen layes of pasta, I finished off with about 2/3 of the Bechamel on top of a final layer of pasta and a shit load of grated Parmesan. Ooh yeah baby.

Baked in the oven at 180C until, well, until it’s ready. Which is obvious to see.


And here we are.




The Pinot was utterly divine, one of the best I’ve ever had. Lovely pinot gamey, cheesey mushroom flavours but also very full bodied, enough tannins to throw a deposit. Amazing.







Zyliss of life

I think a parmesan grater is a perfectly fine leaving gift for someone. Personally, my Swiss Zyliss grater shown is one of my all time favourite pieces of kitchen euipment. They didn’t have any in Parap fine foods, but they had a nice Alessi retro stainless steel one. Amanda looked a little surprised by the chocolate/ grater combo, but has since found the joy of grating.

Design Classic

Design Classic

It made me think of my favourite pasta dishes, namely

  • potato and pesto
  • pizzocheri
  • paste e ceci

I had a breakthrough in the pesto creation a few years back when I realised that you could grate pine nuts very easily through my Zyliss. So, to make a reasonable quantity of pesto;

  • 1 large bunch of basil, leaves removed and splattered in good olive oil and chopped to oblivion on a chopping board with a large knife
  • 100g pine nuts (macadamia also v good, but be wary of other nut attempts….), put through grater
  • 2 cloves garlic (I don’t like it full strength vampire repelling)
  • 100g parmesan, grated

All stirred in with a fair slug of olive oil. This keeps realy well in the freezer.

As far as serving goes, cook pasta (dried) up with as much potato as you feel the need for- floury potato is actually good as it smashes up and absorbs the pesto in a divine fashion. Add a tablespoon of pesto per person (ish), more oil as required. Recently I’ve also added some chopped cooked ham. Don’t cook the pesto or the basil will of course discolour and lose its ‘zing’.

(Look under chick peas and buck wheat for my other two favourite pasta dishes)

Christ, I almost forgot the pesto pizza, which I’m sure has been described here previously. Sliced potato (and actually butternut squash works and looks amazing), roasted with some good fat, till just crisping. Transferred to pizza dough. When crispy, spead the pesto on top, generously. Might even beat the pasta delivery…..

in bits

in bits


New Year In. Intestinal Clear-Out

After significant indulgence over the festive period it was necessary to neutralise those meaty humors with some leguminous matter. Over to Shona.

In fact, if the pancetta was omitted this could be vegetarian. God forbid.

Alastair Little in Italian Food has a very fine recipe for pasta e ceci i.e. pasta with chick peas which he describes as ‘spicy, oily, mealy and cheesy’. Lovely. If somewhat atropical…..

500g chick peas, soaked overnight, and then cooked till soft with

  • 1 large chili
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig rosemary (not in darwin….)
  • 2 sprigs parsley
In a large heavy pan, sweat the following in some olive oil,
  • 2 onions, 2 carrots, 1 celery stick, 100g pancetta all finely diced

Then add

  • The chick peas
  • 200g tinned tomatoes
  • Bouquet garni (rosemary/ bay leaf/ parsley stalks/ thyme bound together with cotton thread)
  • Topped up with water covering 3cm

Simmer for 30-40mins. Add 300g pasta (ditali specified, actually ditalini)

Cook on a very low heat until the pasta is soft. It may require a top up with water if it’s very dry. Leave covered for a while with the heat off to do it’s magical alchemy thing.

To serve, stir in a slug of olive oil and MASSES of parmesan, for that extra healthy detoxifying effect. I also had a jar of toasted chili oil for a little extra spice. Stella Bella tempranillo 2008. I would love to have this with some Serrano jamon……

Holy Scallops

In Tasmania scallops are so ubiquitous that they make a dodgy lumo curry pie out of them. I suppose this is reminiscient of the use of oysters in blighty before they went posh. Well, a new shop at the Rapid Creek Sunday market had a bag of bivalves of some description, claiming to be scallops. $30 you say, er, maybe not, no $3- really? Well they smelt divine and looked gorgeous, sleek and very fine with almost transparent shells. They must be local, impossible to be that cheap otherwise. I must ask next time what they are called.

I’ve often cooked clams or prawns with pasta, garlic, tomatoes and chili. Well, no tomatoes and the boys are somewhat averse to chili. At the market today, amongst other things, I bought some lovely little capsicums and a bunch of squeaky spring onions at the market today. So,

  • 2 small peppers
  • 2 spring onions (including most of the green)
  • chopped, and fried in a slug of oil (you want an oily emulsion for the sauce.)


  • 250g capellini pasta (3mins max)
  • Bag of wee scallops, washed (maybe 700g with shells, no idea…)
  • Cooked with their own juices in a covered pan. (some wine would have been nice….)

Scallop juice sieved into the veg, reduced a little,  then add the drained pasta.

The demanding guests (family) preferred the scallops de-bearded/ gutted. Personally I was too hungry and the grit was barely detectable. Maybe for polite company. I put a little toasted chili oil/ flakes on mine but not too much to destroy a very good bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Stella Bella.

Kangeroo Ragoo

It is so easy to make a very brilliant ragu that to make a greasy cow pat spag bol is criminally insane. Let the ranting commence.

In my efforts to reduce the water footprint of my carnivorous urges, the ‘roo must really be No. 1 contender for all things minced. It’s a pretty intense flavour, like venison. But then, if you don’t like flavour, well, you’re dead. It itrritates me intensely when people try and tone down the ‘roo because of this, often by drenching or marinading it in all manner of salty, vinegary shit. Just let it be, man. It’s wild, it’s got flavour. If you like you meat bland, eat tofu.

The key to the ragu is taking the time to chop the vegetables finely and cooking it for ever to get a concentrated, dense sauce. Oh yes, and chicken livers.

In the hostel from hell in Freemantle, I remember passing through the kitchen and getting a waft of the usual SpagBol abomination- garlic almost burnt, a pack of mince dumped in to absorb this nauseating cremation, and tinned tomatoes, all ready to serve in 10 mins. Foul.

So, roughly tripling up Simon Hopkinson’s non-family recipe,

  • 100g butter
  • 50ml olive oil
  • a few garlic cloves
  • 3-4 onions
  • 4-6 carrots
  • 4-6 celery sticks,

All finely diced and fried to pallor,

You could add a good slug of white wine (yes white, not red)
Then add
  • 1kg roo mince
  • 500g chicken livers, chopped (we like a lot of chicken liver)
And stir till broken up. Then,
  • 600ml passata
  • 2bay leaves
  • Black pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • 500ml milk, yep, a bit weird
And then slowly cook, and occasionally stir until you can just see the bottom of the pan when you do so. I think this outing took 4-5 hours. To serve, clearly boil up some decent pasta, though dried is probably better. Add cream or more butter to make richer and rain on the parmesan. You don’t need to drench the pasta with sauce, just enough to have a morsel with each piece of pasta.
This is one of those dishes that can be washed down with some plonk or something top end. In the absence of some fine Italian wine, a very good pinot is rather good. Current tipple is Bogong Estate, made by a dedicated pinotphile. Christ, watch the typo there.
Oh yes, three large plastic containers are now in the freezer, enough for six meals. Instant gastronomic heaven, result.


Pizzocheri and pseudo-soba

This is one recipe which I often repeat unchanged from Ferdinand, my university gastronomic accomplice and guide. Saying that I rarely have the necessary
buckwheat pasta (pizzocheri), so that statement is actually shite. In fact I often bastardise the whole thing. What I mean to say is that I often do this recipe not with pizzocheri, but with orrecchiete if available, or other chunky pastas. The elements from that originally served are; fried fatty meat, I often use beef and lamb offcuts in the absence of pancetta, garlic fried to golden, potato, though again, I have used other solid veg like butternut squash, and finally, cabbage. The meaty fat I fry with the garlic. Meanwhile boil the cabbage and potatoes. Fresh pasta goes in for the last minute or a minute after the veg if dried non-egg variety. Drained and tossed with the fat and garlic, truffle oil and. Parmesan at the table. Alchemy.

Today however, I decided to actually make the pizzocheri. With my boys.

A recipe on the rather fine blog FXcuisine, suggests mostly buckwheat flour and no eggs, but I couldn’t fail to use our growing egg mountain. I stick to 100g flour per egg, so 300g buckwheat, 100g semolina and four eggs. I’m out of practice with this, so ended adding water prematurely thinking it was too dry, then having to add buckets of semolina to get back to a manageable dough. This is somewhat testing when being ‘assisted’ by two tiring bockles, and possibly even less wise after completing a paediatic trauma simulation course.

However we got there. Felix was patient and helped cut the sheets to strips. Due to the amount of dough I ended up making some pseudo-soba noodles, using the angels hair setting on the pasta machine with a fairly thick sheet. I might try the Japanese method as shown on the FXcuisine website, though I might need some nunchaka type rolling pins.

Traditionally this alpine pasta is actually served with a lot of Taleggio and cabbage. The former is somewhat tricky to acquire in the tropics. Next time.

Finished product